Reading of the Week: Common Medications and the Link to Depression – the New JAMA Psychiatry Paper

From the Editor

“Many may be surprised to learn that their medications, despite having nothing to do with mood or anxiety or any other condition normally associated with depression, can increase their risk of experiencing depressive symptoms, and may lead to a depression diagnosis.”

JAMA Psychiatry papers rarely make international news. A new paper by the University of Illinois’ Dima Mazen Qato (who is quoted above) and her co-authors has, however. In looking at prescribed drugs like proton pump inhibitors, they find that many are linked to depressive symptoms. One online news report began with the headline: “37% of US Adults Are Using Common Meds They Don’t Realise Could Cause Depression: It’s even worse if you use several medications together.”

It’s a big study with a big result. For the record, a couple of patients have already brought up the findings with me.

statin_2819148bMany small pills, one big problem?

What to think and how should it affect patient care? In this week’s Reading, we consider the paper.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Higher Volume, Better Care? The Rasmussen Paper

From the Editor

How do we improve mental health services?

Past Readings have explored many topics from measurement-based care to better access. This week, we consider a new paper by Aalborg University’s Line Ryberg Rasmussen et al. The study authors look at volume and quality of mental health care, drawing on Danish inpatient admissions.

Their finding? “This nationwide, population-based cohort study demonstrated that patients with depression who were admitted to psychiatric hospitals with very-high-volume wards were more likely to receive care in accordance with clinical guidelines, compared with those admitted to low-volume wards.”

ptelemnursing01High volume, better care (if not better cafeteria food)?

This week, we look at the Rasmussen et al. paper and consider its implications.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Marijuana Policy After Legalization; Also, Remembering Charles Krauthammer

From the Editor

Last week, the Senate voted 52 to 29 in favour of Bill C-45, clearing the last hurdle for marijuana legalization. The federal government is aiming for implementation in the fall.

So, what now?

In the first selection, the University of Toronto’s Tony P. George et al. discuss a “framework” for cannabis policy post-legalization. This Canadian Journal of Psychiatry perspective paper is prescriptive, aiming to reduce the negative effects of the legal change. They make six recommendations, including a national strategy for education.


senate-11

Also, in this week’s Reading, we consider the life and psychiatric contributions of Charles Krauthammer, who died last week at age 68. Dr. Krauthammer is best known for his political commentary, but he had a career in psychiatry before becoming a prominent essayist, and penned a classic paper on “secondary mania.”

Please note that there will be no Reading next week.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Smoking Cessation & Incentives – the NEJM Paper

From the Editor

“So to put it simply, forcing people to choose is not always wise, and remaining neutral is not always possible.” University of Chicago economist Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School Professor Cass R. Sunstein write this comment in their widely-read book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness. They argue that people could be nudged in a certain direction, improving outcomes. Among the book’s fans: former UK Prime Minister David Cameron and former US President Barack Obama.

Thaler and Sunstein write about shaping basic decisions, like encouraging people to choose among their company’s pension plans. Retirement planning can significantly help people with their finances in their twilight years. But what about substance use? The stakes seem higher: smoking cessation can prevent major health problems long before retirement.

This week, we look at a new paper by University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine’s Dr. Scott D. Halpern and his co-authors. Published in The New England Journal of Medicine, they consider smoking cessation and find “financial incentives added to free cessation aids resulted in a higher rate of sustained smoking abstinence than free cessation aids alone…”

file-20170804-6503-18ujgw6Nudging people to butt out?

In this week’s Reading, we consider the paper and its implications. (There is, however, no financial incentive offered here.)

DG

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Reading of the Week: On Spade, Suicide, and the New CDC Report

From the Editor

“I didn’t know Kate Spade, who hanged herself with a red scarf in her bedroom on Tuesday at the age of 55, other than through the prism of her insistently cheerful and whimsical accessories. But everything about Ms. Spade and her designs suggested a sunny temperament, from her candy-colored aesthetic to the perky image she projected. We have a hard time squaring a seemingly successful woman — one with a highflying career, a family and heaps of money — with a despondency so insinuating that it led her to end it all. All this helps explain why Fern Mallis, the former director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and a friend of Ms. Spade’s, called her death ‘so out of character.’ In fact, it turned out that the bubbly girl from Kansas City ‘suffered from depression and anxiety for many years,’ as her husband, Andy, said.”

So writes novelist Daphne Merkin The New York Times. In the essay, Merkin writes about her depression and her own suicidal thoughts.

Kate Spade. Then Anthony Bourdain.

It’s been a remarkable few days.

bourdain-obama-429e2fd0-b412-4a22-804a-acb7a25d8d43Anthony Bourdain with President Barack Obama

In this Reading, we look at the new CDC report on suicide in the United States. Suicide rates south of the 49thparallel have risen nearly 30% since 1999. We consider the paper and its implications.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Alastair Campbell on his Brother, his Life and his Schizophrenia

From the Editor

“So, my schizophrenia story. Well, the story is mine, but the schizophrenia was Donald’s. He would happily have told you his story himself, for he was very proud of the life he led, given the seriousness of the condition. Sadly, he can’t, as he is dead. So I will tell his story instead.”

Alastair Campbell is many things. He is the author of more than a dozen books. He is a former press secretary and director of communications for UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. He is the father of three.

And he’s the brother of a person who had schizophrenia.

In this week’s Reading, we consider his speech for the Schizophrenia International Research Society, “The Shittiest of all the Shitty Illnesses.” He discusses his brother’s illness and its impact on his family – and he also talks about his brother.

stream_imgAlastair Campbell

In this Reading, we consider Campbell’s comments, and also the larger issue of reduced life expectancy for those with severe mental illness.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Can Computerized CBT Help People with Substance Problems? The New AJP Paper. Also, How Many People Really Have Mental Illness?

From the Editor

More than ever, we are talking about substance use problems. But as with other mental health services, people struggle to get care, particularly evidence-based therapies.

In the first selection, we consider a new paper from The American Journal of Psychiatry, published last week. Yale University’s Brian Kiluk and his co-authors compare traditional CBT (done with a therapist and in-person) with a computer-based therapy program, CBT4CBT. They conclude: “This computerized version of CBT thus appears to be an engaging and attractive approach for persons with substance use disorders.”

typingTyping to Treat Substance Use?

In the second selection, we consider an essay by The Globe and Mail’s André Picard who asks a simple question: How many people actually suffer from mental illness? Picard cautions us on “pathologizing normal emotions.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Involuntary Psychiatric Admissions – More Common, But Why? Also, the Failure of AI

From the Editor

Some patients are so ill that we take away their basic rights and freedoms, admitting them involuntarily to hospital. But how common is the practice?

In the first selection, we consider a new paper by Michael Lebenbaum et al. that looks at involuntary admissions from 2009 to 2013. They find the percentage is not only high (by international standards) but that it has soared in recent years – from 70.7% in 2009 to 77.1% in 2013.

Hand holding key (with key hole)

We consider a recent essay on AI in the second selection. Google has made international headlines with its program, Duplex, that can call and book appointments. In this piece, the authors note that AI has failed to live up to its potential. “Schedule hair salon appointments? The dream of artificial intelligence was supposed to be grander than this…”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Mukherjee on Why Checklists Save Lives – Except When They Don’t

From the Editor

“How could an idea that worked so effectively in so many situations fail to work in this one? The most likely answer is the simplest: Human behavior changed, but it didn’t change enough.”

Readings of the Week generally focus on psychiatric topics. But here’s a task for all of us in health care: improving the quality of care. This week, we look at a new essay written by oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. In it, he talks about the success of using checklists in reducing complications in some places – but not in others. The above quotation comes from this provocative essay.

checklist-850x476 Checklists: Shown to save lives, except when they don’t

Why do checklists work some of the time? In this Reading, we consider the essay, and the larger questions it raises.

DG

 

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Reading of the Week: MDMA for PTSD – the New Lancet Psychiatry Paper; Is the Club Drug Really a Breakthrough Drug?

From the Editor

“When it kicked in, it was like an epiphany. I could see all these things from combat I was afraid to look at before, and I had a totally new perspective. I relived the parts of me I had lost. I realized I had viewed myself as a monster, and I was able to start to have some compassion for myself. It was a turning point, and for the next year I continued to get better.”

In a recent article on MDMA (often called Molly or Ecstasy), The New York Times quotes U.S. Marine Nigel McCourry, who has PTSD, talking about his experience taking the drug. So – is there a role for MDMA in the treatment of PTSD? In a new paper published in The Lancet Psychiatry, researchers seem to find there is. In the study, therapy sessions were enhanced with MDMA; after the sessions, 68% of the patients no longer met the clinical criteria for PTSD.

The paper has gained international attention. The New York Times covered it (and quoted McCourry). So did Global News with an online article headlined: “‘Party drug’ MDMA touted as breakthrough therapy for PTSD patients.” The Independent’s story begins: “MDMA ‘cures’ sufferers’ post-traumatic stress disorder in a few weeks during study.”

mdma-pills-ecstasy-600x500MDMA: Colourful pills – helpful pills?

In this Reading, we consider the paper behind the headlines, and the Comment piece that accompanies it. We also consider what to tell patients if they ask about MDMA for PTSD.

DG

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